"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pediatric EKG/Echocardiogram: What to Expect

At Evan's first check-up with our new pediatrician in May, the doctor detected a heart murmur. She said it was faint, and she reassured us that heart murmurs in children are very common, but she recommended that we have his heart thoroughly examined given our families' history with Matters of the Heart. My mom has Mitral Valve Prolapse, which causes her heart murmur, and Sam's family has a history of congenital heart disease.

Two weeks ago, a packet of pre-approval papers arrived from our insurance companies. Twelve pages of pre-approval papers. TWELVE. I hadn't been nervous about the results...but now...I was nervous about the testing. What, exactly, had we just been signed up for?


I started Googling to find out more information about the procedures, but I kept getting distracted from my intended search and accidentally finding Worst Case Scenario stories about heart murmurs. So I stopped Googling.

Today, Evan and I headed off on our Big Adventure at the Pediatric Cardiologist.

After a brief physical exam, it was time for the EKG (or, electrocardiogram). The nurse placed super-sticky "stickers" (electrodes) all over Evan's chest. When he was all connected to the machines, I took a picture to show him....

"I look like a Robot," he said. 

It was completely painless and took less than five minutes.

This is the print-out....

After the EKG, it was time to go back to the "Echo Room" for the Echocardiogram. I had read that the procedure is similar to that of a pre-natal ultrasound, which is the explanation I used to prepare Evan for it. We entered the room that looked exACTLY like the sonogram rooms I entered when pregnant....except for the fact that there were Buzz Lightyear wall decals everywhere we looked, "Toy Story" playing on a screen up at the ceiling (the perfect angle for viewing while lying on the exam table), and a jar of lollipops sitting on the technician's cart.

The technician used the same gel and a similar, if smaller, wand on Evan as were used by my OB. She ran the wand across the middle of his chest, the sides and upper area of his chest, and on his neck. While she scanned, she clicked and scrolled, taking measurements and capturing screen shots. She turned the screen toward Evan when she was monitoring the blood flow through his heart. The images were colored blue and red, showing the blood flowing into and out of the heart. We watched the valves of his heart opening and closing. We saw the organ pumping and flexing. We watched and were amazed at the beauty and the miracle of this.....again, not unlike a pre-natal ultrasound....watching the miracle that is your baby, growing inside of you. Did you know that the human heart is completely formed in the first 28 days of gestation? Twenty-eight DAYS. How is that possible?

I was struck by that same feeling of butterflies in my stomach as I watched the screen today as when I watched my babies growing inside of my belly....what I saw on the screen I knew to be perfect. I didn't "know," of course, I'm not a pediatric cardiologist....just like I didn't "know" the baby I saw on the screen would be perfect. But they are....my babies and, as confirmed by today's appointment, Evan's heart. Yes, they may have their flaws (the babies, not their hearts)....and yes, they may drive me completely crazy (the babies, not their hearts), but they're mine...and they're perfect. And when they're not, because they won't always be....I'll do everything I can, read every manual, talk with every expert, go to every last corner of the earth...to fix them, or heal them, or help them, or, at the very least to understand them. Because they're mine.

I felt the butterflies and I reached out to move a stray lock of hair off of Evan's forehead. I wanted to cry. I still didn't know the results of the Echo and I had that strange timeless feeling...Evan was the baby in my belly, the big boy on the exam table, the grown man, with a full life and a family of his own. His heart is fine. He will be fine. He IS fine. Right?

As the technician finished taking her final measurements, she looked me right in the eyes: "Dr. M will meet you back in the exam room. She'll discuss the results of the Echo with you then."

"Oh, good," I responded, "I was really hoping to leave here today with an answer."

"Of course, honey. It would be cruel to keep a Mama waiting about her baby's heart."

Yes, yes it would.

"But," she added, almost under her breath, "you don't have anything to worry about."

And I didn't. Dr. M met us just a few minutes later, chatted with Ev for a bit about kindergarten and his favorite books and such. Then she smiled at me and told me what I've known all along: "Well, Mom. He's perfect!"

Lesson Learned:
The doctor, a pediatric cardiologist, explained to me that heart murmurs in children come and go. He does not "have" a heart murmur. He had a heart murmur. They can be caused by fever, stress, anxiety, and any other number of factors. Doctors may hear a murmur in him again someday. Or maybe not. The bottom line is, the form and function of Evan's heart is perfect.

Now if only I could get an Echo on each and every square inch of all of my kids....maybe then I'd have a few less Mommy Worries keeping me up at night....